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    The latest news, videos and workouts from the Escape Fitness Team.


    Have you always known that you wanted to be your own boss? Or are you a bit further along in your career, and thinking the time for entrepreneurship has passed you by?

    Let James Balfour restore you entrepreneurial spirit and teach us all how to keep the momentum of motivation with his not-so-traditional route into co-founding 1Rebel.

    For more insights from fitness industry thought leaders and entrepreneurs, sign up to the Escape Fitness newsletter.

    fitness entrepreneur

    From distraction to dedication.

    James described his journey into entrepreneurship during an episode two of the Escape Your Limits podcast.

    “My father has always been entrepreneurial, always been very busy and I wasn’t able to really connect with that as a teenager so much,” he explains. “But when I became older and turned 18 or so, I was able to talk to him much more about business, and then that made my mind start to think.

    “I liked the idea that business is about problem solving or making things better. And as a genesis of any sort of business, I think if you are solving those two things, you might have a leg to go on.”

    James’s not-so-traditional route began in secondary school, as he told host Matthew Januszek: “I was more of a white-collar criminal in the sense that I was naughty, but didn’t get into fights or do anything that bad.

    “I was always upsetting the teachers and I was, in particular, upsetting my Dad because he had to work very hard for everything he had. What frustrated my teachers was that if I enjoyed something, I was very good at it; if I didn’t then I was lazy and wasn’t interested. So the idea that I had potential, but was lazy, irritated my father like you wouldn’t believe.”

    focus on your strengths

    Focus on strengths and compensate for weakness.

    Reflecting on his time in education, James continued: “If I’m interested in something, I am all in, I have no poker face, I am just passionate about it. If I’m not I find it very hard to give any focus to it. Sometimes that can be seen as a weakness, but I think in business, I think you’ve got to focus on your strengths and then compensate for your weaknesses.

    “So the things that I’m not good at, or the things that I don’t have interest in, it is very important to find people that are good at that because then you can focus on your strengths.”

    James left investment banking in 2007 to complete his life-long dream of climbing Mount Everest – making him one of the youngest Briton’s to do so. Since then James has completed many expeditions including leading a team to the South Pole. In 2007 James joined forces with his father to co-found Jatomi Fitness.

    Overcoming obstacles as an entrepreneur.

    “When I think about the Jatomi story, it’s not a great success story,” explains James. “We grew the business very quickly, we started off in Poland, where I moved to when I was 24, and 7 years later we had 70 clubs across 7 countries – in Eastern Europe, Turkey and South East Asia.

    “I think we felt that whatever we did would work out, and we weren’t intellectual about it. We weren’t focused about what a brand meant, what brand stood for and how that can create advocacy from your customer base. Instead we were opportunistic, we thought, well that side can be upmarket one, and that one can be a cheaper one let’s just continue, continue, continue.

    “I realised that it wasn’t something that I was proud of anymore and I remember seeing the likes of SoulCycle and Barry’s Bootcamp in the states and just thinking ‘OK this is where I want to be.’ This is about putting the customer first, putting experience first, getting results; not tying people up into 12-month contracts.”

    Finding out what kind of entrepreneur you really are.

    It was time for James to make a decision that would cement his direction, as he tells us… “I sort of said to the business that I wanted to go and do that and my father made it very clear that if I did, I would be walking away from everything. I was turning 30, well just before 30 and I thought ‘yeah, OK fine.’ I wanted to do it and I had his support in the end but I just walked away from it and that’s when Giles and I started 1Rebel.”

    Has your journey answered the question of what type of entrepreneur are you yet? Do you have clear goals and a direction that you’re heading, or are you working to build something bigger than you can comprehend?


    For more insights from fitness industry thought leaders and entrepreneurs, check out the blog homepage.